Q:  Can I be held legally responsible (liable) when a friend causes an accident while driving my car?

A:  This answer to this question is more complex than it may seem at first.  Typically, for a person to be legally responsible for another person’s actions, there must be a special relationship between the parties.  For example, an employer is legally responsible for the actions of her employee when the employee is acting within the scope of his employment.  This is called an “agency” relationship, i.e., the employee is the “agent” of the employer.  Likewise, in some cases, a parent can be legally responsible for the negligent acts of her child.  In addition to special relationship liability, the car owner may be independently liable for the damage or injuries caused by the driver under a legal theory called “negligent entrustment.”  A negligent entrustment claim can arise against a car owner that loans her vehicle to a driver she has reason to believe should not be driving a car (because of intoxication, for example).

The question of insurance coverage is separate from the issue of personal liability.  In Arizona, the law states that the insurance policy that covers the car involved in the accident provides primary coverage and the policy that covers the driver is secondary or supplementary.  (A.R.S. §20-1123.01(B)).  This means that even if the car owner has no personal liability, his insurance company will likely cover the fault of the driver of the loaned car.

Bottom line, because the answer to this question is very fact-dependent, anyone wondering about personal liability for the driver of a loaned car should seek legal advice specific to the facts of the particular case.

This blog is for informational purposes only.  It does not create and attorney-client relationship and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you have any questions, feel free to call attorney Brian Allen at (480) 461-5335 or contact him at bta@udallshumway.com.